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Full service gas station serves as transportation hub for reservation

PABLO — Exxon Quicksilver Express in Pablo is not your ordinary gas station. It’s a full service, super center and social hub station, which also provides its patrons with gas and maybe some clean windows. With a built-in deli, café, free Internet, laundromat, car wash and excellent customer service, the Exxon station has become a hot spot for Pablo residents and Salish and Kootenai College students alike. 

“We want to get customer service out to the people,” Salish and Kootenai Tribal Transit Manager Corky Sias said of the full service aspect of the station. 

“Some people won’t get out of their car until there’s someone out there,” Sias said. 

Unlike the gas stations of old, patrons don’t set off a bell that sends an attendant running to their car. Instead the attendants watch for cars from the gas station windows and then hustle outside, rain or shine to pump gas, clean grimy windshields, windows and/or headlights. 

And, according to Sias, there is nothing like this kind of customer service for miles around.

The tribally owned gas station started providing full service in June and since then, they have seen an increase in the amount of people utilizing the service.

The full service aspect has also enabled the gas station to hire three more employees, like Billie Ann Salois. Salois is a Pablo native who had been out of work for sometime before finding a job as an attendant at Quicksilver.

“I like your hat,” a chatty Salois states as friendly as she can be. 

Salois hustles as she rotates between pumping gas for patrons outside the convenience store and helping customers inside the gas station.

Inside the gas station, there is always a bustle of commotion. It’s almost lunch time on Thursday morning and two sisters, Sherri and Mary Pierre, are visiting inside. The elder of the two, Sherri is a student of Information Technology and Computer Science at SKC. She works part time at the gas station, serving her neighbors, family and friends. 

Her younger sister Mary grabs a quick bite to eat, as yet another sister comes in for a taco to-go. Mary is 18 and is a Native Studies major and enjoys the access to the Internet that the gas station provides. 

If the two girls wanted to, they could also do their laundry while surfing the web or doing online homework or research. But for today, it’s just lunch and enjoying each other’s company. 

The services that are provided to the community don’t stop within the walls of Quicksilver Express. The building also serves as the headquarters for the Salish and Kootenai Tribal Transit program. 

The transit program started in 2007 and since then has grown exponentially serving not only tribal members, but all residents on the reservation. For a dollar per ride, buses or vans will transport students, employees and patients safely to their destinations. Last fall, Sias reported that they provided approximately 8,000 rides to residents on the reservation.

And the program is growing. 

This spring the transit program is expecting to expand its services with five 17-passenger buses, a red dye diesel tank, an add-on to the building, and bus barn renovation. 

The $568,000 grant is part of stimulus money received through the Montana Department of Transportation. 

With the exception of dialysis and chemotherapy patients, the sick and the elderly can utilize the program by calling the transit service 24 hours in advance. They get curbside service, but for those who are able-bodied, there are pick-up points across the reservation that serve as tribal transit hubs. Sias stated that without an EMT (emergency medical technician) on board, the buses cannot transport the terminally ill. 

The transit program encourages a family member, spouse or friend to accompany a senior citizen to and from their doctor’s appointment. If they would like to, they can ride for free.

With the new program, there is no need for people living on the reservation to have to hitchhike along U.S. Highway 93. 

And there is also no need for people who are without insurance or without a license to get on the road and drive illegally.

To catch a ride with the tribal transit system call 675-5000, ext. 1030.

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